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Emma Winterbottom’s trip to Creaciones Miquelina

Our Product Developer Emma Winterbottom joined Páramo in 2009 and leads a team that creates intelligent and functional garments for outdoor people. Last month, she visited our Colombian partners at Creaciones Miquelina in Bogotá to gain an even better understanding of how they work, and here she tells us a bit about her trip…

I was a little nervous about my first visit to our partners in Colombia, not only because of what you often read in the news, but I am also a terrible flyer! I am also a working mother so being away from my child for 5 days was an additional hurdle to overcome.

Unfortunately, the trip got off to a rocky start with our flight being delayed by 15 hours, which meant we lost our first day on an already tight 5-day agenda. However, after landing in bustling Bogotá early evening on the Monday and getting through customs, our taxi whisked us off to our hotel for some much-needed sleep (although jet lag had other ideas!).

On Tuesday morning, following what felt like only 45 minutes of sleep, we were warmly greeted at the hotel by Miguel Ochoa, Managing Director of the Colombian subsidiary, and Mireya Castelblanco, who drove us to Creaciones Miquelina. On arrival, we were introduced to many of the people I have been corresponding with, and building relationships with, over the past 14 years. It felt like a big moment in my Páramo career to be able to finally meet them in person and to see in real time how 80% of our garment production comes together.

The week began with a full tour of the factory, including the all-important design area, fabric & component stores, factory floor, laundry room, quality control, packing & despatch areas – and everything in between! I was immediately struck by the friendly smiles and received a ‘buenos dias’ from every person I passed, compared to in England where you’re often met with a steely glare.

Our focus for the week was development process, ostensibly to make sure our seasonal deadlines are on track, but also to check in on other projects such as inclusive sizing for our women’s range. It felt extremely productive, and we were able to work on plans for the next 18 months of sampling, helped by the clear range direction we have been working on back in the UK.

Having a good understanding of how the Páramo product development team works in the UK vs. how the design team works at Creaciones Miquelina is key to our success, and sitting down with Head of Design, Mary Chiquito as she worked on the most recent sample order to arrive at her desk was a fantastic learning opportunity. Seeing how Mary and her team check our patterns and documents provided us with concise and relevant information to act on, including how we can improve the level of detail in our tech packs to aid assembly of prototype samples.

During the week, we also worked together on production quality – as Deputy Product Manager, I oversee development to production transfers and work closely with both the UK and Creaciones Miquelina QC teams. The week’s meetings provided me with hands on experience as we were able to trial various methods to aid the finishing process and improve the final aesthetics of our clothing. Going forward, I am confident the changes Mary and I put in place will have a very positive effect on our planning and processes.

The highlight of the week came on the last morning of our visit when we were invited to the Creaciones Miqeulina quarterly awards breakfast at which nominated partners are rewarded for their performance, attitude, and efficiency, and receive a certificate and voucher for their hard work. They are then given a morning break to enjoy a breakfast with their colleagues – It was lovely to see how happy this made the women.

Although it was a very intense week full of meetings, observations, and implementing changes, we were also treated to some wonderful sights and cuisine! Colombia is a beautiful country full of vibrance, colour, and warm and welcoming people. There are evident dangers around and places you don’t go to, but that is true of numerous cities around the world – and in the UK too. It was a very proud and emotional moment for me to finally see the work that Páramo does for vulnerable women in Colombia. They have immense pride in what they do, and there is a real family atmosphere at the factory.

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